Grow­ing un­rest for farm­ers

Call for gov­ern­ment ac­tion

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE RURAL - Philippe Co­querand philippe.co­querand@cnbtimes.com.au

MUN­DUB­BERA-based busi­ness Smart Berries has pro­vided hun­dreds of jobs and con­tin­ues to in­crease its mar­ket in the Bur­nett re­gion but a lack of ex­port part­ner­ships is rob­bing it of fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Smart Berries chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer An­thony Poiner is frus­trated the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment has not pushed ahead with talks with their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts.

“It’s true that the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment hasn’t es­tab­lished an ex­port pro­to­col to China which is dis­ap­point­ing,” Mr Poiner said.

“It took both Chile and Peru less than 18 months from first want­ing it to fi­nally get­ting it, they’ve leap-frogged Aus­tralia and are hap­pily ex­port­ing to China.”

Mr Poiner be­lieves Mun­dub­bera’s blue­ber­ries are of the high­est qual­ity and said China would hap­pily work with the gov­ern­ment to start ex­port op­er­a­tions in the Bur­nett re­gion.

“I be­lieve China’s de­mand for blue­ber­ries is grow­ing more than 20% per year,” he said.

“In my busi­ness we ex­port lots of fruit to China and our cus­tomers are ex­press­ing strong de­mand for our fruit.”

North Bur­nett Re­gional Coun­cil mayor Rachel Cham­bers is fully sup­port­ive of the idea and said it was one of the rea­sons she trav­elled to China last year.

“For the North Bur­nett the blue­berry in­dus­try has cre­ated hun­dreds of jobs and it is im­per­a­tive that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment push these and other pro­to­cols like it through their sys­tem,” she said.

“It is im­mensely frus­trat­ing that the agri­cul­tural and hor­ti­cul­tural sec­tors are ready and will­ing to ex­pand, which will in turn cre­ate valu­able em­ploy­ment and in­crease the GDP yet some­thing is block­ing the out­come.

“The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment needs to stop sit­ting on their hands on this is­sue and start act­ing on the ad­vice lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the blue­berry in­dus­try have been giv­ing them for over a year now.

“The lack of will­ing­ness to get on top of this is­sue is not only dam­ag­ing the econ­omy of the busi­ness and the bush but also the na­tion.”

Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd said the gov­ern­ment was ready to start dis­cus­sions to get the pro­to­col un­der way.

“The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment is aware of the po­ten­tial for Aus­tralian blue­ber­ries in over­seas mar­kets, in­clud­ing China, and is work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with the in­dus­try to help them cap­i­talise on ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

Mr Poiner had one re­quest.

“A rea­son­able ob­jec­tive would be to have the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment com­mence ne­go­ti­a­tions with China be­fore Novem­ber,” he said.

PHOTO: PHILIPPE CO­QUERAND

BERRY GOOD: Smart Berries man­ager Ste­wart ‘Blade’ McKen­zie checks out some of the crop.

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